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7 jumbos hurt in Nepal firing

Posted by Ramesh Khati on July 9, 2009

Siliguri, July 8: An NGO in Nepal has said at least seven elephants suffered injuries when police in the Himalayan country opened fire on a herd that was approaching the border on July 5.

The incident took place when a group of around 120 elephants had tried to enter Nepal from the Kalabari forests in Naxalbari subdivision, located 35km from here.

The forest department had on July 6 refused to confirm if the firing had taken place or if any animal had been injured. However, a letter sent by Biodiversity Conservation Society in Nepal said its representatives had witnessed the firing.

The letter, signed by Manoj Thapa, the secretary of the NGO based in Jhapa, has been addressed to the wildlife range warden of Mahananda Wildlife Sanctuary. “The Nepal police fired several rounds at an elephant herd roaming in Bamandangi. The members of our NGO were present at the spot and they suspect that at least seven elephants were injured in the firing, following which the animals returned to India,” reads the letter.

Bamandangi is in Nepal and on the bank of the Mechi that divides India and Nepal.

Thapa also requested the Bengal forest officers to take up the matter with their counterparts in Nepal and ensure that such practises were stopped.

This year, there were two incidents of Nepal police targeting elephants moving from the Indian side. On June 9, the forest guards from the Indian side, who had been engaged to steer back the animals, had to fall to the ground to escape the bullets fired by the Nepal police.

“Firing bullets has become a common trend to scare away elephants,” Thapa told The Telegraph over the phone from Jhapa this afternoon. “If the governments do not come forward and thrash out a solution, we fear, firing at elephants will become frequent.”

The missive prompted the foresters to intensify their search for any injured elephants. “Contents of the letter have been ventilated to senior officers and we are still scouring the jungle for any injured animal. We will treat them if we find them,” said a guard. “There are chances that the injured elephants will go on a rampage in the villages. As such incidents had taken place in the past, we are on alert.”

On the other hand, Wildlife Conservation Nepal, an NGO based in Kathmandu, is organising a workshop at Biratnagar in eastern Nepal on July 17 to impart awareness on the need to conserve elephants.

The wildlife activists in Siliguri today came down heavily on the state forest department for its lackadaisical attitude towards the protection of elephants.

“We have failed to understand why a section of foresters is sitting idle and not taking any action to stop the firing by the Nepal police,” said Animesh Bose, the founder-coordinator of Siliguri-based Himalayan Nature and Adventure Foundation.

Source: The Telegraph


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